In light of COVID-19 and the need to find different forms of exercise, we have seen and will continue to see a boom in cycling. This is an area of the exercise market which has been very buoyant in recent years. The recent increase in the number of cyclists is set to continue, with the UK government introducing more health related policies in the fight against obesity. The authorities also recently announced plans to revise parts of the Highway Code and the legal obligations of various parties on the road. Some of these changes may surprise you.
Cycling on paths and bridleways
While it is illegal to cycle on pathways, it is permitted when it comes to bridleways. It is advisable that cyclists give way to pedestrians/horse riders, alerting them to their presence, but this is not a legal obligation. However, this does not excuse reckless cycling or pedestrians/horse riders who fail to take the appropriate action. This could lead to some serious confusion!
Riding two abreast on the road
Motorists up and down the country may be surprised, or even annoyed to learn that it is not illegal for cyclists to ride two abreast on the roads. It is illegal to ride more than two abreast. Proposed rule changes will introduce an advisory notice prompting cyclists to move to single file when motorists are overtaking, or cyclists are turning round a bend. These proposed changes certainly go part of the way to clarifying the situation, but again there could be some confusion as to which party is legally obliged to give way to the other.
Cyclist do not have to hug the left hand lane
Alongside the common myth that cyclists are not legally allowed to ride two abreast on the road, is the belief that cyclists are legally obliged to “hug” the left hand lane. Interestingly, cyclists are as entitled to use the full lane as motorists. Some of the new regulations will actually encourage cyclists to ride in the middle of lanes to ensure their own safety. Unfortunately, many motorists see cyclists as a “pest”, often engaging in dangerous takeover manoeuvres that can and have resulted in injuries and death.
The use of cycling lanes
In recent years the UK government has spent millions of pounds on cycling lanes as a means of encouraging exercise. Many motorists see the road as their territory and cycle lanes as the natural home of the cyclist. Interestingly, cyclists are not legally obliged to use cycling lanes as opposed to roads. So, motorists and pedestrians will still need to be very careful and aware of their surroundings when cyclists are around.
The UK government is bringing in a number of adjustments to the Highway Code which should in theory clarify the position of cyclists on the UK’s highways and byways. Unfortunately, as you can see above, while there are rumours of changes, many of these will be advisory and may further muddy the legal waters for third parties seeking personal injury compensation. The main thing to remember is that cyclists are equal to motorists when using roads. There is no hierarchy, no need to give way and certainly no need to hug the left-hand lane while motorists attempt dangerous takeover manoeuvres.